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Kids and teens have pushed at least 6 immersive online worlds to over 2m UU/mth in the US April 23, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in Consumer internet, gaming, Internet, kids, social media, social networks, start-up, startups, user generated content, web 2.0.

Wagner James Au has a great post on GigaOm about Gaia. Gaia is a casual immersive MMORPG that describes itself as:

“The world’s fastest growing online world hangout for teens.”

In an interview with Gaia‘s CEO, Craig Sherman, he quotes that Gaia has gone from 0.5m unique users/month midway through last year to 2.5m UU/mth last month. (nb Comscore only has them at 700k UU/mth in March). Furthermore, he claims 300k users log in each day for an average of 2 hours per session, and in their forums area they are getting an average of 1m posts per day for a total of over 1 billion posts so far. And its mostly (85%) US traffic. Impressive stats. Gaia has been pretty quiet about its growth until recently, but Susan Wu was finally able to get them to break their silence by getting Craig to speak at her panel at Web2.0 Expo last week.

Casual immersive worlds have not previously been as popular in the US as they have been in Europe (Habbo Hotel) or Asia (Cyworld). ( I draw a distinction between casual immersive worlds and games such as Runescape and World of Warcraft). Even press darling Second Life, currently reporting 1.7m log-ins in the last 60 days, is lagging Gaia‘s usage.

Interestingly enough, Gaia isn’t the only casual immersive world that is getting meaningful usage in the US. The original casual immersive world, Neopets, is still going strong, with 4.2m UU/mth in March according to Comscore.

Neopets® is the greatest Virtual Pet Site on the Internet. With your help, we have built a community of over 70 million virtual pet owners across the world! Neopets has many things to offer including over 160 games, trading, auctions, greetings, messaging, and much much more. Best of all, it’s completely FREE!

Club Penguin, who Susan also got to speak for the first time on her panel at web2.0 expo, is also growing like crazy – 4.1m UU/mth in March.

Club Penguin is a kid-friendly virtual world where children can play games, have fun and interact with each other.

* Kid-friendly chat
* Lots of fun games
* Nothing to download
* Lots more!

Webkinz, who I mentioned last week as one of the few sites getting their users to visit more than 10 times per month, is also at 4.1m UU/mth.

Webkinz pets are lovable plush pets that each come with a unique Secret Code. With it, you enter Webkinz World where you care for your virtual pet, answer trivia, earn KinzCash, and play the best kids games on the net!

And a dark horse entrant that I was unaware of until recently – Millsberry, run by General Mills (the manufacturer of cereals), is getting 2.2m UU/mth.

Millsberry is a fun virtual city for you to explore. You create a citizen of the city and discover Millsberry through his eyes. You’ll need to make sure he takes care of himself, so you’ll need to get food (from the shopping area) and make sure he exercises (by playing games), but you’ll also get to go on adventures, solve mysteries and have all kinds of fun while visiting Millsberry!


Even Lego has announced its plans to release a casual immersive world in 2008

These worlds are all exploring different business models. Some are mainly ad supported (Neopets, and effectively Millsberry), others rely on subscriptions (Club Penguin) that deliver certain privileges, and others rely on transactions, either in the real world (Webkinz) or for digital goods (Habbo Hotel, Gaia.

Its worth noting that all of these are websites with no download required. This has likely helped them grow more quickly than other casual immersive worlds such as Second Life and IMVU, which are also growing fast, but not as fast.

One can’t help but notice that all of these immersive online worlds are targeted at kids and teens. If demographics are destiny, then we can expect more and more people to interact with each other in casual immersive worlds over the next few years. Susan Wu thinks so too, and her prediction about web 3.0 (are we there already?) is that it will be:

continuing down this path of improving the user experience of living and socializing online. This story is about human context, social proximity, and a sense of place.

I think she is right. What are your thoughts?

UPDATE, April 26th, 2007: Barbie is now also getting in on the action with Barbie Girls.

UPDATE, April 29th, 2007: Techcrunch reports that IAC’s Zwinky is also launching a casual immersive world. In this case, they are also employing a different business model than the other virtual worlds as the toolbar that enables much of the functionality includes a search box and will be usable both when the user is and is not “in world”. Note that the search box occurs to the LEFT of the URL box… This tactic worked great for previous IAC products such as Smiley Central and Cursor Mania.


1. hunter - April 23, 2007

~2002 we (second life) were at an event with Bing Gordon (chief creative officer at EA) where Bing said something that has stayed with me: “virtual worlds will be a rite of passage for every teenager” (paraphrased). The chance to interact with various types of people, to play “dress up” and experiment with different identities was (IS) just a formative part of adolescence.

Let’s hope that we see more and more spaces which incorporate creation and other high order bits, not just consumption. I’d like teens to come away from these spaces with increased life and professional skills, not just blinged out avatars.

2. Charles - April 23, 2007

Absolutely. Some more examples: Tencent QQ in China, a virtual items chat and games service with an economy that is starting to affect trade of the Chinese RMB; and Nexon’s Maple Story which was written up in March.


I think what’s interesting about this next wave lies in your term, “Casual Immersive World”. I believe that CIWs are to games as Reality TV was to scripted television; more user participation and improved “online living” using the well established metaphors from gaming.


3. Gaia Online — a virtual gold mine » mathewingram.com/work - April 23, 2007

[…] he points out in a comment below, Jeremy Liew has a post up about Gaia and some of the other “casual immersive worlds” that are gaining traction, […]

4. nabeel hyatt - April 23, 2007

Good point Hunter. I don’t have the quote right in front of me, but a USA Today article on virtual worlds tried to put it in perspective – “virtual worlds will be to this generation what rock and roll was to boomers”

That said, even though I have a ton of respect for GAIA, Webkinz, etc – I don’t think the Beatles have hit yet.

5. Kids, Virtual Words and the 3-D Internet « Screenwerk - April 23, 2007

[…] than the Korean). There’s also the new virtual community BarbieGirls.com. And here’s another post from a VC (Lightspeed) that mentions some others, such as […]

6. Sebastien Provencher - April 23, 2007

Interesting. I just discovered this morning that Pages Jaunes Groupe, France’s official directory publisher, has just launched 3D navigation of Paris and Rennes. Smart! I think kids & teens will love navigating 3D representations of the real world when they grow older.

7. Gaia not what it used to be - social networking and brands « Relaxed Parents - April 23, 2007

[…] Online is  one of a range of social networking sites aimed at children and teenagers and the business model is intriguing if you’re a parent – draw […]

8. dariusz - April 23, 2007

My 6-year old daughter saw one of her friends on Webkinz.com. She immediately asked for a companion Webkinz stuffed animal and I reluctantly agreed. A week later she visits the site several times a day and spends at least 30 minutes per session. As a product/marketing guy, I am truly impressed! As a parent, horrified! Our kids need real friends, fresh air, and physical activity. While social networking for kids is a natural fit with what kids want to do and will do as teens, it concerns me that they can spend so much time wasting time.

9. Gaia not what it used to be - how brands use social networks to route around parents « Relaxed Parents - April 24, 2007

[…] Online is one of a range of social networking sites aimed at children and teenagers and the business model is intriguing if you’re a parent – draw […]

10. IAC Launches Zwinktopia At Peak of Virtual World Hype - April 30, 2007

[…] virtual worlds, such as Gaia, Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others, are exploding in terms of unique monthly visitors and total time spent at the […]

11. Peter Van Dijck’s Guide to Ease » Blog Archive - April 30, 2007

[…] Damn, these “immersive worlds” in the browser are popular. […]

12. Virtual Worlds Forum Blog » Blog Archive » Kids and teens are getting into immersive worlds - May 1, 2007

[…] As if we didn’t know – at least six US worlds have more than 2 million unique users a month. Here’s a report from Lightspeed Venture Partners. […]

13. Golublog: An Anthropology Blog · A note on non MMOGs - May 2, 2007

[…] Here’s a space I know about but have never explored (read: perfect BA or MA project): all these graphical chat spaces like Zwinky, Stardolls, Gaia and all the others. […]

14. Shaping Youth » Zwinktopia Slides Younger Teens Into Their Virtual Playground - May 4, 2007

[…] up their world, they have a built-in launchpad to take off…PLUS youth immersive worlds are booming AND their avatars are not just ‘in-world’ they can travel all over the […]

15. Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog - May 7, 2007

[…] consumers, are starting to use the internet to connect directly with their end users. I’ve posted in the past about how companies such as General Mills (cereal), Ganz (plush toys) and Mattel (Barbie) have all […]

16. hasan - May 14, 2007

Good webkinz article.Thanks.

17. Warwick Motley - May 15, 2007

The youth segment is becoming more and more the targeted market. We seniors are getting left behind.

18. RazorSharp iPods & Raw Gadgets » Blog Archive » IAC Launches Zwinktopia At Peak of Virtual World Hype - May 21, 2007

[…] virtual worlds, such as Gaia, Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others, are exploding in terms of unique monthly visitors and total time spent at the […]

19. Good SF Chron article on kids and casual immersive worlds « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog - June 1, 2007

[…] kids, web 2.0, media, gaming, Internet. trackback For those who like my previous post on how casual immersive worlds are hitting the mainstream in the US, there was a good article in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, found via […]

20. » The Week in Geek - June 3, 2007The Week in Geek - June 3, 2007

[…] Six Kid-Based Virtual Worlds Top 2 million unique users/monthKid-focused virtual worlds are turning into a big business. For the current generation, having an avatar (or several) will be as common as having a pet was for their parents. At 2 million unique useres each month, Gaia is bigger than SecondLife (based on regular usage). NeoPets has 4.2 million unique users. Club Penguin (worth half a billion?) has 4.1 million. Even General Mills Millsberry boasts 2.2 million users. And WebKinz (immensely popular with my son’s first grade crowd) also has 4.1 million. WebKinz is tame – no stranger chat, limited commercialism, and access that comes with a fuzzy stuffed animal – but some of the efforts are disturbingly commercial and far too unfettered. Off limits for all but much older kids. […]

21. Sanrei - June 19, 2007

One big difference Gaia has over all of these “Kiddie” websites? Gaia is for people aged 13 and older.

Gaia also is a PG-13 environment. Not G. Not PG.
Last I heard, you can’t say even the most tame curse words on Neopets without getting warned and banned.

Gaia is popular as a hangout which is aimed at TEENAGERS. Not kids.
It is popular because it provides an interactive hangout for people with more mature interests. I’ve found that the sites you have listed are not to my tastes as they are simply far too immersed at attracting kids and tweens.

22. Shiyiya - July 23, 2007

Sanrei is right – there is even partial and complete nudity art in the arena, and there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell you could get away with that on NP.
One of the main differences between NP and Gaia, however, is that NP is your pets, and its just a game, and Gaia is you, or at least an avatar of yourself, and it’s possible to take it quite seriously. It’s hard to take an Aisha seriously.

23. Virtual World Hangouts: So Many To Choose From - August 5, 2007

[…] in earn out) demonstrates that the business of casual immersive worlds, or virtual hangouts, is not entirely child’s […]

24. » Techcrunch comparison table of online virtual worlds Librarian Kathryn Likes This - August 9, 2007

[…] in earn out) demonstrates that the business of casual immersive worlds, or virtual hangouts, is not entirely child’s […]

25. Volgende MoMo Amsterdam: 24 september: Mobile Communities « - August 17, 2007

[…] Facebook heeft z’n tipping point bereikt, Plaxo heeft een indrukwekkende nieuwe versie en in Azië zijn ze verder met hun communities dan wij ons kunnen voorstellen. Wist je dat 90% van de Koreaanse jeugd en 30% van de gehele bevolking actief is op Cyworld? En dat 90% van alle foto uploads in Korea plaatsvinden binnen Cyworld? ( link) […]

26. Sindy - August 21, 2007

Do kids not go online to read articles anymore, are they all on virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Webkinz etc. What about sites like these, will they survive: http://www.kidzworld.com, http://www.sikids.com, http://www.bonus.com, http://www.nick.com. Let me know your thoughts.

27. d - August 23, 2007

any noe now virtual worlds other then gaia clubpenguin and habbo hotel? plz anwser

28. jeremyliew - August 23, 2007
29. TechCrunch en français » Mondes virtuels:un choix immense pour tous les goûts - September 5, 2007

[…] récente du ClubPenguin de Disney pour $350 millions démontre que le business des mondes virtuels n’a rien d’un jeux […]

30. IAC Launches Zwinktopia At Peak of Virtual World Hype « Youtopiaproject’s Weblog - September 10, 2007

[…] virtual worlds, such as Gaia, Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others, are exploding in terms of unique monthly visitors and total time spent at the […]

31. Virtual World Hangouts: So Many To Choose From « Youtopia Project - September 11, 2007

[…] in earn out) demonstrates that the business of casual immersive worlds, or virtual hangouts, is not entirely child’s […]

32. rs2money - September 11, 2007

Runescape is by far the best online multiplayer game compared to others around such as Habbo Hotel. One thing that you should be aware of is that this game is of a high addiction level, and can get you sitting on it for hours on end.
I hope the site can help u


33. Is games 2.0 just around the corner? « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog - November 27, 2007

[…] with dramatically lower and more variable content creation costs. Gaia, Habbo, Second Life and other casual immersive worlds, while not really games, let users create content for each other, and in fact let users BE content […]

34. VentureBeat » Predictions for the consumer internet in 2008 - December 3, 2007

[…] online, and indicating that this is becoming a primary form of online communication for some users. Many of these users skew young, and if you believe that demographics is destiny, then you will expect this behavior to spread. The […]

35. NY Times notes that many media companies are launching vitual worlds for kids « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog - January 1, 2008

[…] this year that big companies have led the latest surges in virtual worlds, with many of these virtual worlds targeting kids and teens. Today’s New York Times concurs in an article about web playgrounds for the very young, which […]

36. Jamie - February 26, 2008

I also heard that http://www.lamelime.com and myyearbook.com are up in the 1 million dollar range! And the people that started them both are under 14 year’s old!

37. Renee - March 8, 2008

I will admit that I’ve been involved with Neopets since December 2003. There are many adults on this kids site. Our guild is Guild of Booklovers, we have a strict no chat speak neoboard policy, It’s a guild of teacher, librarians and students too smart for their peers.

I’m trying second life and its difficult, I’m impatient with the learning curve. I let my imagination run my 2D neopian world. Plus I can build my cloud house for free,

38. Princess Mikayla - March 27, 2008

Is this a post thing for kids or adults? The people on here talk so complex!

39. wolf krammel - July 14, 2008

Excellent post, I so agree with this. The immersed world concept is getting stronger and stronger, escpecially in Europe.

40. kidster - July 23, 2008

hey, im a kid and ive played all these different games, but after a while it gets boring. they need more games out there..
does anyone know any other fun games for kids areoung 10 years old thats me!
i know that theres alot of kids outthere looking for somemore online games!

41. Programmers - EasyNeo - July 31, 2008

[…] your friend here then 😛 Neopets is larger… in my opinion and the statistics from this website: Kids and teens have pushed at least 6 immersive online worlds to over 2m UU/mth in the US Lightspeed… GaiaOnline gets 2.5m UU/mth Neopets gets 4.2m UU/mth x million unique users per month and yeah. […]

42. Katie - August 14, 2008

Isn’t there any decent games for 12-18 year old that have good graphics that you don’t have to download? I have been searching for a decent site that I can have fun on for teens but have been put off by bad graphics from all the virtual site that you don’t download but am not allowed to download any and would love to go on a free virtual site that you don’t have to download.

43. Katie - August 14, 2008

Xivio is a good website its 3D and it has no downloads!

44. free mmo - October 7, 2008

The speed these games are growing at is amazing. Games like Club Penguin and Habbo Hotel are huge!

45. Shannon - October 23, 2008

Gaiaonline is free, nothing to download, and it only takes a few seconds to register. I myself am a “Gaia,” and I’m telling you, Katie… you’ll absolutely love it!

46. jada - November 21, 2008


47. מתנפחים - November 23, 2008


48. vayerman - December 31, 2008

Great analytics.

Games are giving freedom to do unreal things, while virtual worlds allow you to do real things, but a bit faster.

We are trying to invite kids to research and personal growth at our virtual world – http://www.chobots.com

49. jolo - January 8, 2009

Tootsville.com is one of the best virtual sites for kids to come along. It has a maturity rarely seen in new start-ups. On top of that they are launching an educational side to the site!

50. MMO - February 17, 2009

Good point Hunter. I don’t have the quote right in front of me, but a USA Today article on virtual worlds tried to put it in perspective – “virtual worlds will be to this generation what rock and roll was to boomers”

That said, even though I have a ton of respect for GAIA, Webkinz, etc – I don’t think the Beatles have hit yet.

51. Children's Bedroom Furniture - February 26, 2009

Its funny my neighbor kids often find the craziest games to play online, most of which I have never heard of before. I guess this is why they are all albino. They never get any sun because they are always inside on the internet playing games… Just some food for thought…

52. browser mmo - March 2, 2009

Gaya is a cool game!

53. alexisez - March 19, 2009

so what are you guy going to do

54. RPG wallpaper - March 20, 2009

Wow that’s intense lol. I know A LOT Of people that play Gaia. A lot of people also play Club Penguin

55. kids chair - March 27, 2009

Webkinz are very popular. They even have a whole online forum just about webkinz.

56. Earl Grey - April 10, 2009

I Think Club Penguin is the most popular of those virtual worlds. Neopets is up there to, but its a different kind of game.

57. John - May 16, 2009

Great article. Thanks for taking the time to write this for us!

58. browser games - June 1, 2009

So crazy!! Great article. Gaia… A lot of people also play now Free Realms…

59. Virtual Worlds for Kids - April 15, 2010

True. But gaia is not exactly a kids virtual world. Club Penguin is the undesputed champ at this moment but there are a ton of up and comers vying for the same space. http://www.clubpenguingang.com

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